Known for deep-dish pizzas and the best hot dog carts you can find anywhere, Chicago has a style that's uniquely American — but it also contains some Japanese influence worth checking out on any visit.
Uniqlo is opening their first store in Chicago on Oct. 23, 2015 (this Friday!), and to celebrate, we're bringing you our curated guide to finding Japanese culture in The Windy City. Read on for some of our favorite places to see great art, dine and of course, shop in Chi-town! Enjoy a little taste of the Japanese culture Chicago has to offer.
Named after the Nada district in Kobe, Japan — and noted on the tea house website as a place famous for "sake-brewing using pure spring water from Mt. Rokko" — Nada Tea and Coffee House is the perfect place to stop for afternoon tea or coffee after a busy morning seeing the sights. Here you can relax, recharge and rejuvenate your spirits while enjoying a cup of deliciously brewed tea or coffee in a calm space with an inviting interior designed by the late architect, Douglas Garofolo.
Mitsuwa Marketplace may be a chain of grocery outlets, but you'll see why this is a recommended stop as soon as you get to the front entrance filled with fresh Japanese produce you won't find in any Chicago deli. The store houses several restaurants that cook in various traditional and fusion styles and also contains a stationery store, Books Kinokuniya. Stop by to pick up cute novelties as travel gifts or popular treats for yourself, like Kit Kat candy bars in green tea, pineapple and strawberry flavors imported from Japan.
The eclectic selection of Japanese stationery, cards and gifts will make it difficult to leave this little shop without a bag stuffed full of goodies. Oodles of oddities make browsing a pleasure in itself and you're sure to find a fun gift for even the most hard-to-shop-for person in your life. But make sure you don't leave without a little something for yourself. Pro Tip: If you're a fragrance aficionado, check out their selection of Tokyo Milk perfumes. Heavenly scents with names like "Gin and Rosewater" and "Dead Sexy" make them hard to resist.
Need a another layer to keep you warm while sightseeing? Stop by Uniqlo's first location in the Midwest, opening Oct. 23, 2015, at N. Michigan Avenue and E. Pearson Street in Chicago. The location expands the presence of Uniqlo's parent company, Fast Retailing, as the fourth largest retailer in the world. At 60,000 square feet, the Chicago store is the second largest Uniqlo in the US after Fifth Avenue in NYC. Perfect for travel, Uniqlo's HEATTECH thermal innerwear (with patented heat-retaining fabric) keeps you warm, dry and odor-free. The fabric, softened with camellia oil for a smooth texture, feels like a second skin.
Take a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago to find one of the largest collections of Japanese art in America. This finely curated selection contains a wide range of pieces of fine art by classic artists dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, contemporary works by Hiratsuka Un'ichi and even late 17th century porcelain Arita ware. Quiet moments in a museum can make for unforgettable travel memories. Soak up the history and beauty while admiring the significant role art plays in Japanese culture.
A traditional Japanese BBQ experience, Gyu-Kaku (meaning "Horn of the Bull" in Japanese) is a casual and social dinner atmosphere where you can order high-quality cuts of meat to cook on a personal BBQ installed at the center of each table. We know, we know... the last thing you want to do is cook on vacation, but we promise the experience is so worth it! Best part? You don't have to take care of the clean-up! Make sure to try the bestsellers here: the Harami skirt steak in miso marinade and certified Angus Kalbi short rib in a tare soy marinade.
Chicago Street Style
Chicago street style can really hold its own. Marked by a distinctly classic American feel, the classics like denim and leather reign supreme here. When it's time to pack your bags, remember that Chicago is a city where your sartorial choices will be swayed by the seasons– just like Japan. If you're heading there in fall or winter, don't forget to bring warm clothes (especially a down coat from Uniqlo) to keep you warm and dry.